World’s Largest Building Has a Climate of Its Own

By Anupum Pant

A place where planes like the Boeing 747, 767, 777 and 787 are built, has to be huge. But this Boeing factory in Everett, Washington, home to 30,000 workers (working in 3 shifts), is so huge that the inside of the building has a climate of its own. It is the largest building on Earth. If you get a chance, you must not drop a chance to take the 90-minute tour of this factory (it costs $15 per adult). Here are a few things to note about it…

The size: The volume of this factory is 472 million cubic feet or 13.3 million cubic meters. That is enough to fit the whole Disney land and still be left with a 12 acre place to park the vehicles. In other words, it could fit 800 standard sized hockey rinks. Or it could fit in 75 football fields. Or it can hold about 12 empire state buildings! You get an idea how huge it is, right?

Largest Digital Mural: Being huge comes with its own side effects – another world record. The doors, like the building, are huge too. The factory has 6 doors, where each of them is 82 feet in height and 300-350 feet in width! You could bring in an NFL field (as in, fit the length of it) in through one of these. But what is more interesting about these doors is that they are covered with a 100,000 square feet of digital graphic. This is the largest digital mural in the world – printed by SuperGraphics, Seattle. It took the workers 27 days to install the digital mural.

Small City: Had this place been slightly larger, it could have had enough space to fit in a country – The Vatican city. Still, it isn’t small. The building is like a small city with it’s own fire department, security force, fully equipped medical clinic, electrical substations and water treatment plant. To move around in this little city, the employees use 1,300 bicycles.

Its own Climate? Now, since it is like a small city, it has to have its own climate, right? Yes. When the building was first built, clouds got formed inside and some say it even rained inside (mostly, not true). But rainbows have definitely been seen inside.
The temperature inside the building is controlled by those 1 million bulbs that are used in there. During winters, the bulbs bring warmth and during summers the doors are opened and air circulating fans are switched on to let the fresh Everett breeze come in.

Bonus fact: The network of 26 overhead cranes have about a total of 39 miles of ceiling rails inside the factory!

Yakhchal – An Ancient Cold Storage Marvel

By Anupum Pant

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During a period when electricity was only a thing for the Gods, around 400 B.C.E., in the hot-arid deserts of Iran where temperatures touched 40 degree centigrade, ancient engineers had found a way to keep their ice from melting. Two thousand years back, a cold storage facility was being used. The impressive thing about it – it was clean and sustainable technology.

What are these?

Yakhchals, or ice pits of ancient Persia were the huge mounds (buildings hollow from the inside), which made it possible for Persians to store away the ice for summers, meat, dairy products, other food items and chilled frozen Faloodeh for the palace. Beside treats for the palace, the method of preserving ice was so professional yet simple that even the poor could afford it.

Structure and Working

The structure of these buildings above the ground is a large mud brick dome, often rising to about 60 feet in height. Below it are large underground empty spaces, up to 5000 cubic meter in volume. This space had access to wind catch and often contained a system of wind-catchers that could easily bring temperatures inside the space down to frigid levels in summer days. The structures were built so well that many still remain standing.

Working: The massive insulation built into the walls (due to the use of a special mixture of sand, clay, egg whites, lime, goat hair, and ash) and the continuous cooling waters that spiralled down its side kept the ice frozen throughout the summer by evaporative cooling (just like those mist fans). They also had a trench at the bottom to catch water from the molten ice and to refreeze it during the cold desert nights. The ice was then broken up and moved to rooms deep in the ground. As more water ran into the trench the process was repeated.

Geography: These were built in the areas that had suitable condition for producing natural ice or places where there was feasibility of water freezing during the cold nights.

Major architectural elements

  • Shading wall – To avoid direct exposure to sunlight and to let the structure remain cool in the shade.
  • Provisional pool – To supply water for evaporative cooling to take place.
  • and Ice reservoir – To keep the cycle going. Freeze > Melt > Refreeze at night and so on…

The end of Yakhchal (reasons)

  • Since the advent of electricity-guzzling freezers and air conditioners, unfortunately, the use of these architectural wonders has been considered as foolishness. This is probably the reason no Yakhchals are being used for cold storage anymore.
  • Desert storms, caused a lot of erosion to these structures, especially to the ones that were isolated in the desert regions.
  • Since Yakhchal’s ice formed in the open it was prone to combining with dust and resulted in contamination. That was another reason it wasn’t considered as a choice useful enough for modern purposes.

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